Customers, Employees, Stockholders Come First
Businesses and advocacy organizations around the world are facing a rapidly changing landscape. As the pandemic evolves, so does the threat of global warming, climate change and disruptions to supply chains. Lives, businesses and entire communities are being lost to fires, floods, droughts and the pandemic. The worst is yet to come.
As a result, crisis aversion and crisis management have taken on a new urgency in the world of brand management. The companies that navigate these challenges proactively and responsibly are more likely to survive, if not thrive, as these events unfold. While some short-sighted companies are trying to capitalize on these crises, others are wisely positioning themselves as responsible citizens. They are positioning themselves as leaders, the voice of reason and reliable problem solvers. They are building relationships, while leading stakeholders to higher ground. They do the right things at the right times without concern for the bottom line, but investor relations must be handled simultaneously with public safety concerns.
Customer Relations During A Crisis
In a crisis, everything that your organization does and doesn’t do will impact its brand and its future. Everything that spokespeople say and don’t say matters. Even nonprofit organizations must strike the proper balance in substance and tone. Branding and positioning are part of crisis communications. Be part of the solution.
What factors make consumers trust brands during a crisis?
- Wellbeing of customers;
- Wellbeing of employees; and
- Not taking advantage of the crisis to maximize profits.
During a crisis, consumers don’t want messages of hope, optimism, nostalgia or even statements about strong moral principles. Consumers want brands to demonstrate leadership and action by taking care of customers and employees. Ultimately, leaders are winners in the hearts and minds of stakeholders and stockholders.
Employees Essential To Crisis Communications
Data shows that during uncertainty, workers want their employers to be their trusted leader. Fifty-four percent of consumers are concerned with how employers are treating their employees during a crisis. Better treatment fuels brand trust from consumers, as 48 percent trust brands more when they take care of their employees. Likewise, employees are important resources who can help spread important messages and they can help prevent misinformation.
Six Steps To Better Crisis Communications
- Assessment and Prevention: For survival and liability reasons, it is essential that all organization do everything within their power to anticipate and prevent a crisis. Negligence is a message that cannot be overcome in the court of public opinion or in the courts of justice.
- Planning and Training: Appoint a crisis management team to help develop a crisis communication plan that can handle most contingencies. Build your stakeholder networks and keep contact information current. Put the plan to the test in a variety of scenarios to make sure that it is flexible and capable. Planning and coordination can save time, lives and reputations. Identify the key spokespeople for a variety of scenarios and provide them with media training so that they know how to get vital messages out under any circumstance.
- Safeguard Public Health: When lives are at risk, nothing else matters. Don’t allow an opportunity for a negligence accusation. Prevent. Plan. Respond.
- Build Relationships With Stakeholders: Customers, employees, suppliers, allies, regulators and elected leaders are all important audiences. Listen, don’t be tone deaf and avoid humor. Be human. Be relevant and responsive. Survey stakeholders to find out what they need, what they think and what they are doing to evolve.
- Be A Leader. Leaders develop solutions, offer resources, issue awards, produce best practices, and offer ongoing career education. This might be the right time to initiate some of those tactics. Leaders also earn media coverage that is relevant and meaningful. Don’t forget to monitor your competition during these times just to stay in tune and in step. In fact, there might be an opportunity or need for cooperation to help save lives.
- Continuous Quality Improvement: As the world evolves, so does our need for crisis communication plans. Keep refining your plan, your contact lists, your mobile/remote capability and other important details. Keep testing for new scenarios. Ask yourself and others “what could go wrong?”
No two crises are the same, but the planning and prevention phase can help you develop a customized crisis communications plan that will serve and protect your stakeholders.